What’s Your Competition Doing?
While you’re busy fixing cars, some of your competitors may be eating away at your customer base. Here’s how to use competitive intelligence to regain the advantage and improve your market position.
The auto repair industry is experiencing significant and swift changes in its customer base. Newer vehicles are lasting longer and have different servicing schedules than their predecessors, and owners have become more educated as to their service requirements.
Recognizing the impact of these changes, each segment of the repair industry is aggressively developing new and better methods to acquire and maintain market share. While the total number of new car/truck dealerships is shrinking, those remaining are becoming more aggressive in the marketing of the service and repair portion of their business.
Combine these dealership trends with the increase in the number of specialty franchise and chain stores that are broadening the repair and maintenance services they provide, and you can see that the “full-service” general repair business is becoming increasingly competitive.
One method of improving your market position is to accumulate specific and useful information about each of your competitors, then use it to out maneuver them. This information is often referred to as competitive intelligence (CI). Today, every type of business, from the smallest to the largest, is collecting CI, and it should be an intricate part of every repair shop’s marketing plan.
It’s extremely important that every shop owner remain keenly aware of the activities of his or her competition, yet few are willing to invest the necessary time and/or money into developing a plan to regularly collect and update their CI. And of those few who do collect such information, most don’t follow through with a specific plan to improve their market position.
Shop owners such as yourself must understand that as the market changes, your competitors will experience the same changes as you do. And, in all likelihood, they’ll be targeting some of your customers to increase their market share. Therefore, fully understanding what each of your competitors is doing is an absolute necessity!
Unfortunately, when business slows down, many shop owners “hope” their business will improve, because they lack enough information about the competition to go after some of their business. That could prove fatal in today’s business climate.
Obtaining the CI information necessary to have a full understanding of your competitors requires market research, knowledge management, strategic planning, due diligence, and data analysis. Finding out what each of your competitors is doing enables you to evaluate your position in the marketplace by knowing where you have advantages and where you don’t. Knowing exactly what your competitors are doing and what their strategies are will enable you to exploit each of their weaknesses!
The accumulation of competitive intelligence begins with the formulation of a plan. Elements of that plan should include: deciding what information about your competition would be useful to know, how you plan to obtain that information, and what you intend to do with it once you acquire it.
The best answer to the question, “What do I need to know about my competition?” is “everything considered useful by you in order to make solid business decisions.” Shown below is a sample “Competitive Intelligence – Customer Service” form, which lists the important areas of shop operation about which you’d want to know.
Click the image below to download the form
You could make up your own CI form, which would list all the services you feel are important. Include services you currently provide, services you’re considering providing, and services you know others offer. This kind of form allows you to compare services offered by your competitors. It also offers insight into these shop’s attitudes about certain customer services.
Next time, we will delve deeper into some of the types of things you may want to put on your form, and break down the importance of certain marketing types when appealing to a wide customer base.
In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about marketing, enroll now in Guerrilla Shop Management! Marketing is just one of the many topics covered in this course, which begins January 19th. Call 800-755-0988 or click here to enroll.